My Dark Horse Run for Anti-Pope

It was one of the darkest periods of my life: my girlfriend had dumped me,  the firm where I worked had broken up in a fight between two factions, neither  of which *sniff* wanted me to join them in their new ventures.  I was at loose  ends, with no one who’d listen to my troubles but my old buddy, Bates.

“I’m  running because I believe I can make a difference.  To me.”

“So you’ve got nothing lined-up, job-wise,” he said as he tipped back a  longneck Narragansett beer.

“I’ve got a few resumes out,” I said.  “Nobody’s calling me back.”

“Hmm,” he hummed.  “There always the comfy, cozy public sector.  Indoor work  and no heavy lifting, as we say in Boston.”

“You brought Cool Ranch Doritos?  Awesome!”

“I don’t know any politicians,” I said.  “That’s kind of essential, isn’t  it?”

“It’s the essence of essential,” he replied, staring out the window at a  breathtaking view of the Massachusetts Turnpike.  “How about saving men’s  souls?”

“You mean life insurance?  No, I’ve never been a salesman.”

“Not that, dingleberry.  I meant the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

“Are they hiring?”

“For entry-level jobs–sure, all the time.”  He paused for effect.  “You take  a vow of poverty, and they make sure you keep it.”

“So why would I want to apply there?”

He snorted with contempt.  “You don’t answer the Help Wanted ads, stunod.   You aim high.”

“How high?”

Il Papa,” he said triumphantly.

It was my turn to laugh.  “Dude–I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.   The Pope is elected according to canon law.  He stays in office until he  dies.”

“Go to the head of the class–loser!” he snapped, and I felt the same hot  breath of scorn that had blown my hair dry in fifth grade as I rattled off one  correct answer after another in a lightning round session in the tenets of the  Baltimore Catechism, only to be pounded to a pulp at recess by boys apparently envious of my knowledge of the Communion of Saints.

“If you’re going to play by the rules, you’ll never get anywhere,” he said.   “If you want to BE somebody–run for Antipope.”

Pope  Peyton I, three-time RCC Player of the Year

It was a daring suggestion, fraught with risk–but it promised great  rewards.  The Vatican is the world’s second-largest private landowner, after  Starbucks.  They’ve got diamonds, jewels and great works of art.  I’d be ex officio Commissioner of CYO basketball leagues around the  world!

“How, exactly,” I began hesitantly, “does one go about . . . running for  antipope?” I asked him.

“It’s not as hard as you’d think.  Antipopes go almost as far back as Popes,”  Bates said, reaching for a handful of Cool Ranch Doritos, the unique combination  of great taste and good fun rolled into one great snack.  “The first–as every  good Catholic smart-aleck ought to know–was St. Hippolytus in 217  A.D.”

I cringed a bit.  I hate it when people throw Catholic lore or liturgy that I don’t know back in my face.  Like my Jewish friends who caught me leaning the  wrong way one night, confusing the Immaculate Conception with virgin birth.   Ouch!

“So,” I said.  “What’s involved?”

“You gotta ‘go into schism,’ like Pope Novatian did in 251 A.D.”

“What’s that mean?”

He turned and looked at me with a cold glare.  I sensed that he was trying to  figure out if I had the fire in my belly.

“You don’t mess around,” he said and there was a strange, hard element–like  carbon or titanium–in his tone.  “When everybody in the world is saying the guy in St. Peter’s is the Pope, you simply say–”


H.L.  Mencken

“Ding dong, you’re wrong.”

The elegance of his solution struck me as bogus.  I’m a Menckenian, and  believe as he did that for every complex problem there is an answer that is  clear, simple and wrong.  “You can’t just announce that you’re Pope and  expect people to follow you,” I said.

Bates shook his head, as if in wonder at how hopelessly naive I was.   “Listen, you dingbat” he said as he got up to play Willie Ruff’s Gregorian  Chant, Plain Chant and Spirituals.  “Might makes right, and votes make  Popes.”

“What’s that mean?”

“The Pope was elected by the College of Cardinals.  You go out, get  yourself some disgruntled bishops, guys who lost a few parishes in the last  round of church closures, and get them to vote for you!”

“Can you really do that?”

Can you really do that?” he repeated in a mincing tone, mocking my  diffidence.  “Do you think Novatian asked anybody if he could ‘do that’ before  he did it?  No!  He just went out, rounded up three disaffected bishops from  southern Italy and–voila!  He’s just as much the Pope as your namesake,  Cornelius.”

Antipope Novatian, as drawn by my buddy Bates, making fun of Pope Cornelius

Bates was persuasive but still, there was something that didn’t seem  quite right about the whole scheme.  “If it’s that easy,” I said after taking a  moment to mull his plan over, “why don’t you become the antipope?”

Usually so confident, almost cocky in his approach to life, Bates flinched  like St. Sebastian getting hit in the armpit with an arrow.

“You think I don’t want to?” he said, a cloud of regret passing over his  usually-blase countenance.  “If I thought I had a chance, I’d be out on  the campaign trail in the batting of a gnat’s eyelash.”

“Is that shorter or longer than two shakes of a lamb’s tail?”

Way shorter,” he said.  “C’mere.”

He led me into his room, to his closet, and reached up on the shelf above the  clothes rod.  He pulled down a stack of notebooks and sat down on his bed.   “Take a look at these,” he said.

Theresa  of Avila vs. Catherine of Siena: Cast your vote on-line–now!

We flipped through the pages, filled with drawings Bates had done of himself  in full papal regalia; mitre, crozier, the works.  Beneath them he’d practiced  signing autographs as “Pope Bates I.”

“I . . . had no idea,” I said as I patted him on the back to console him.   “So why did you give up . . . on your dream?”

“I’m a marked man,” he said, his voice catching on the lump in his throat.   “I took on the Pope over heretical baptism.”

“Ah,” I exclaimed, understanding immediately.  The question whether former  heretics need to be re-baptized in order to be reconciled to the Church has  started more bar fights in the neighborhood around St. Peters than who’s cuter,  St. Theresa of Avila or St. Catherine of Siena.  “Funny, isn’t it,” I said to my  old University of Chicago roommate.


Leopold  and Loeb

“That the same dorm that produced thrill killers Leopold and Loeb produced  two Pope wanna-be’s.”

He laughed, more at himself than at my lame attempt at a joke.  “You go  ahead,” he said.  “I’ve got no chance.  The Pope and his cordon of nefarious  henchmen . . .”

“Like on Rocky and Bullwinkle?”

“Right.  They follow me everywhere–I wouldn’t live past the first  primary.”

“They aren’t monitoring your brain waves, are they?”

“How did you know?” he screamed in mock paranoia.  We both knew that, as  powerful as the Vatican might be, they couldn’t read our minds from afar.  As  long as we didn’t drink fluoridated water.

“Have you ever run for office?” he said as he put his notebooks back into the  closet of his broken dreams.

“Three times.”

“And what’s your record?”

“Two wins and one loss.”

“Pretty good,” he said.  “What were your wins?”

“Fifth grade class president, and trustee of the 337 Marlborough Street  Condominium Trust.”

“And the loss?”

“Junior High Student Council President.”

“What was the margin of victory?”

“I lost in a landslide,” I replied, and not without a trace of  bitterness.

“What was the problem?”

“I knew nothing about retail politics,” I said.  “I hadn’t heard Tip  O’Neill’s famous line.”

“All politics is local?”

“No–if you want people’s votes you’ve got to ask for them.”

“Right,” he said.  “Well–do you know any renegade priests who could use a  little–‘walking around money’ to vote for you instead of Pope Francis?”

I thought for a moment.  “There’s that guy with the clerical collar and the  tambourine who patrols lower Washington Street.”

“Okay, well–that’s a start.  Does he control any swing voters?”



“An all-important demographic.  The winos on the bench outside South  Station.”

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Here’s to His Holiness: Fake Stories About Real Popes.”

As Prospects for GOP Nod Dim, Santorum Mulls Run for Pope

ONALASKA, Wisconsin.  The numbers, according to his closest advisors, are daunting: in order to wrest the Republican Party nomination away from current front-runner Mitt Romney, former Senator Rick Santorum must win 70% of the remaining delegates when he has captured only 24% in all the primaries and caucuses to date, “and most of those had to be released” according to Chuck Shelton of Opinion Consultants, a polling firm.  “You can’t just hold people for no reason, unless you claim them as dependents on your tax return.”

Onalaska?  What’d ya ask fa?

So Santorum has his eye on another, gaudier prize: “I’ve always dreamed of being Pope,” he said as the current Pontiff, Benedict XVI, made a swing through Cuba to buy cigars and rare mambo records unavailable in Italy.  “There are no campaign finance laws, and the outfits are way cooler.”

“And he’s like, ‘Dominus vobiscum?’  And I’m like, ‘Et cum spiritu tuo!”

The Pope is traditionally elected by vote of the College of Cardinals, an anachronistic body that serves as the model for the U.S. electoral college.  Each Cardinal is entitled to one vote in balloting for the Pope and the National League All-Star team, plus a “wild card” vote that may be used on “Dancing With the Stars” or in minor league baseball “Name the Mascot” contests.

“Why do we have Cardinals?  Because somebody must make life miserable for hipster Chicago Cubs fans.”

According to church historians the office of the Pope extends back in an unbroken line of succession to St. Peter, although there have been anti-Popes who opposed legitimately elected or sitting Popes.  “That’s why Santorum is so disturbing to the country-club Republican establishment,” says Shelton.  “He threatens to upset the party’s tradition of always nominating the oldest living white guy or Gerald Ford, whichever comes first.”

Early prototype of Napoleon Dynamite

Campaign staff said Santorum would adopt the name Pope Rick I if elected, but the candidate declined to confirm that report because he didn’t want to “jinx” his chances.  “I’m not superstitious,” he noted, “but ‘Rick Santorum’ has twelve letters in it like the twelve Apostles, while ‘Mitt Romney’ is an anagram for ‘Mormn Yetti.'”

Pleasure Your Woman the Papal Appliance Way

In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of western women? Some say it was the Pill. Others go even further: the washing machine.

                                       L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican daily newspaper

“I don’t know what it is . . . chicks dig big appliances.”


Pope Benedict XVI’s five-year reign has been marked by a succession of ground-breaking initiatives: the revival of forgotten papal fashion accessories such as the camauro, or “Santa Hat”; the renewal of interest in scholarly inquiry; and the willingness to piss off other world religions on an equal-opportunity basis.  We caught up with the man who is known on the streets of Rome as the “Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (whew!) to talk with him about his latest project; a quest for the answer to that age-old question, “What do women want?”

Pope Benedict XVI, wearing camauro:  “I got it on sale!”

Playboy:  Pope . . .

Pope:  Please–call me “Your Holiness” . . .

Playboy:  The Vatican daily newspaper recently took the position that it was the washing machine, more than any innovation including the birth control pill, that played the greatest role in the liberation of women.  Who did the research for that article?

Pope:  We polled the faithful.  You know, next to the American Automobile Association, we’re the world’s largest membership organization.  You should see our mailing list!

“In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he mentions these rich, Corinthian leather seats.”

Playboy:  Is that really a representative sample?

Pope:  Sure–they’re not allowed to use the pill, so it’s no wonder the washing machine won.


Playboy:  Of course, some people say . . .

Pope:  Who are these “some people”?

Playboy:  That’s an interviewer’s trick–saves research time.  Some people say, “The Pope–he no playa the game, he no make-a the rules.”  What do you say to those people?

Pope:  I say lose the bogus Italian accent.  I’m German, capiche?

Playboy:  Still, it’s hard to understand how someone who took a vow of celibacy can claim to know the minds of women.


Pope:  Who died and left you boss?  Do you know what sound a woman makes when she’s totally and completely satisfied?

Playboy:  No.

Pope:  I didn’t think so.  Ha–gotcha!

Playboy:  Very funny.  Seriously, though–appliances?

Pope:  It shows how ignorant your typical writer for a men’s magazine read by teenage boys can be.  You must treat every woman as if she is a customer at a major appliance store.   

Playboy:  We’ll suspend disbelief for just a moment.

Pope:  You start out small, wooing her with countertop appliances such as the Dough-Nu-Matic Donut Maker.

Playboy:  I can see how that would be better than nibbling her earlobe first thing.

Pope:  Precisely–it’s non-threatening, and fun!  Everybody loves donuts!

Playboy:  Then what?

Pope:  You want to hustle down to second base with the Kitchen Magician by Popeil.

Playboy:  The 8-piece multi-grater that slices, dices, chops and shreds?

Pope:  As seen on cable TV–that’s the one.

Playboy:  What are the telltale signs that your woman is getting hot at this point?

Pope:  She’ll typically start to moan, and to clasp her legs tightly around you, like a cat hanging on to a tree trunk.


Playboy:  Sounds good.  Then what?

Pope:  You want to round second and head for third with the Hoky Floor and Carpet Sweeper.

Playboy:  It comes in red, black and midnight blue–what color is most conducive for a night of wild, freaky sex?

Pope:  Red is the color of passion, my son.

Playboy:  Okay, rounding third, heading for home–we’re looking to score now.  You say a washing machine’s the big turn-on?

Pope:  Precisely.  It’s the Big Bang, the thing that makes the earth move for your typical desperate housewife.

Playboy:  Front or top-loading?


Pope:  Keep it clean–the top-loader is the missionary position of white-goods appliances.

Playboy:  What about the G-spot?

Who’s that behind the Ray-Bans?

Pope:  Go for the A-spot, as in “appliances.”  And for God’s sake, get the extended warranty!

Playboy:  Thanks for your advice.

Pope:  No problem.  You look like you need it.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Here’s to His Holiness: Fake Stories About Real Popes.”

This Week at the Vatican Multiplex 14

Thirty years after it was first released, “The Blues Brothers” has been added to the Vatican’s list of “must see” movies.


One thing about this “papal infallibility” thing that’s tough is admitting when you’re wrong.  And movie fans, let me tell you–I’ve realized the error of my ways.  “The Blues Brothers” is more than a cult hit and a laff riot–it’s a Catholic film!  How did I miss that!

I’ll tell you how–I’m a busy guy!  In addition to my duties as Head of the One True Church and shopping for cool papal fashion accessories, I’m putting out fires all over the world.  I don’t have time to be Roger Ebert!

And yet I must.  As ex officio head of the Catholic Legion of Decency, I have to watch and rate every direct-to-video dud that Hollywood cranks out.  Let me tell you, if through some bureaucratic mistake I end up in hell, I’ll be prepared for it by a lifetime of Pauly Shore movies.

Pauly Shore

But the Blues Brothers–I don’t know what I was thinking!  Maybe I was jealous that Belushi and Ackroyd got to pal around with Aretha Franklin.  I’ve invited her to the Vatican before, but ever since she went all Lane Bryant on me, the structural engineers tell me the load-bearing walls in the Sistine Chapel couldn’t hold her.  I can’t risk it.

Electric blue is very slimming.

Or maybe it’s the pressure of the job.  Cranking out a review a day for L’Osservatore Romano with the paper’s stupid rating system: one to four mitres for good reviews, one pitchfork for a bad review.  I can’t limit myself to handing out little symbols to movies–fer Christ sake, I cut my teeth on Pauline Kael.  Not literally of course.

Mitre                   Pauline Kael

Maybe I’ve been wrong about other films, too.  Porky’s 2?  Is there a Rosicrucian sub-text I missed first time around?  Ghostbusters?  Perhaps I was a trifle harsh in my assessment of the demon-worship that marred the cinematography.  Maybe the whole Dozer leitmotif was–ironic.  I don’t know–do I look like Gene Shalit? 

 So anyway, I’m not going to get caught looking the wrong way again.  I’m taking out a subscription to Les Cahiers du Cinema.  I’m upgrading to premium cable so I get HBO, the Movie Channel, Turner Films.  I’m going to become so sophisticated I’ll part the crowds of starlets like the Red Sea when I show up at Cannes!  I’ll roll over David Denby and Janet Maslin like an SUV crushing a couple of chipmunks!  Which is what they are.

Papal camauro

Yessiree–no Gauloise-smoking, beret-wearing cineaste is gonna top me.  Know why?

‘Cause I’ve got a camauro, which is way cooler

As Vatican Makes Peace With Beatles, Stones Ask “Where’s My Pardon Padre?”

VATICAN CITY.  As the Vatican moved to make peace with The Beatles, ending a four-decade-long feud that began with an irreverent quip by John Lennon, other so-called “British Invasion” bands including The Rolling Stones said they would settle for no less than a blanket pardon.

The Beatles: “We’re more popular than Jesus and The Dave Clark Five!”

“If you’re going to go around handing out indulgences like they’re penny candy, I want me some forgiveness too,” said Mick Jagger, who had requested an audience with Pope Paul VI in 1970 only to be told that The Rolling Stones “Satanic Majesties Request” album rendered such a meeting impossible.

“The Beatles, they could get away with that psychedelic crap,” the Pope noted in his encyclical “On the Abandonment of Blue-Eyed British Soul by a Certain Band I Won’t Mention But Whose Initials are TRS.”  “For the Stones–the band that gave the world ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’–to turn to cheap lava-lamp rock is beyond forgiveness,” the pontiff said, consigning the Stones to limbo, a netherworld between heaven and hell where rock bands and doo wop groups go before they reassemble for reunion tours at Holiday Inns.

“Why canta you boys make another album like-a ’12 X 5′?”

In 1966 John Lennon said that The Beatles were more popular that Jesus Christ, setting off a firestorm among faithful Christians and Herman’s Hermits, an ascetic sect whose music was played at teen dances in the hope of stemming incoming tides of adolescent hormonal lust.

Herman’s Hermits:  “You can kiss her, but you can’t feel her up.”

“It was a noble experiment, but it was doomed to fail,” said sociologist Harmon Kardon, who studies the culture of the ’60’s.  “If you play ‘I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am’ too many times, you put the propagation of the human species at risk.”

Facing Crisis, Pope Urges Renewed Emphasis on Basketball

VATICAN CITY.  Facing a crisis that threatens to bring down his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI today urged a renewed commitment to NCAA Division I men’s basketball, a source of pride and comfort to Catholics down through the ages.

“Nothing but net!”

“We started out with eight schools on the Road to the Final Four,” the pontiff told a subdued Holy Week gathering from his balcony in St. Peter’s Square.  “Notre Dame, Siena, Georgetown and Marquette–four gone in the first round.  Let me tell you, my bracket sheet ran red with the blood of the martyrs!”

St. Mary’s Gaels:  A regional final counts as a miracle.

The overall record of Catholic colleges in the tourney was 8-8, with Xavier and St. Mary’s advancing to regional finals.  “That’s fine for a Division III religion like Islam,” the Pope shouted forcefully, “but not for the One True Church.”

“How many of you had Villanova going all the way?”

Villanova, the highest-ranked Catholic school in the tournament at the number two seed in the South Region, was eliminated in the second round along with perennial overachievers Gonzaga.  “Every year, the Zags are the darlings of March Madness,” the Pope said.  “This year–they crapped the bed.  If you only win one game, there’s no cool name for your round.  You’ve got Final Four, Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, but no Few Thirty-Two.”

Asked by a lay reporter at a press conference whether there were any other critical issues facing the church, the Pope’s face grew pale and he hesitated before speaking.  “In these troubled times,” he noted somberly, “our bingo receipts are waay down.”